Advertising's Fifteen Basic Appeals
In the following essay, Jib Fowles looks at how advertisements work by examining the emotional, subrational appeals that they employ. We are confronted daily by hundreds of fads, only a few of which actually attract our attention. These few do so, according to Fowles, through "something primary and prim itive, an emotional appeal, that in effect is the thin edge of the wedge, trying to find its way into a mind." Drawing on research done by the psychologist Henry A. Murray, Fowles describes fifteen emotional appeals or wedges that advertisements exploit.
Underlying Fowles's psychological analysis of advertising is the assumption that advertisers try to circumvent the logical, cautious, skeptical powers we develop as consumers, to reach, instead, the "unfulfilled urges and motives swirling in the bottom half of [our] minds." In Fowles's view, consumers are well advised to pay attention to these underlying appeals in order to avoid responding unthinkingly.
The nature of effective advertisements was recognized full well by the late media Philosopher Marshall McLuhan. In his Understanding Media, the first Sentence of the section on advertising reads, "The con- tinuous pressure is to create ads more and more in the image of audience motives and desires."
By giving form to people's deep-lying desires and picturing states of being that individuals privately yearns for, advertisers have the best chance of arresting attention and affecting communication. And that is the immediate goal of advertising: to tug at our psychological shirts sleeves amd slow us down long enough for a word or two about whatever is being sold. We glance at a picture of a solitary rancher at work, and "Marlboro" slips into our minds. Advertisers (I'm using the